Moments of Change: Leading with Courage and Commitment for Racial and Social Justice

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Crowds gather at the National Mall during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom political rally in Washington, DC, August 28, 1963.

Demonstrators gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial on June 6, 2020, in Washington, DC, on the 12th day of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

JUNE 2020 VOL. 102 NO. 6





Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Fostering Economic Inclusion, Social Equity, and Justice for People of Color— Advice for City Managers Valerie Lemmie, Director of Exploratory Research, The Kettering Foundation


Beyond the Birdcage: Insights to Understand, Analyze, and Improve Dr. Kurt Wilson, local government advocate, educator, and consultant


Let’s Be the Change

Opal Mauldin-Jones, ICMA-CM, city manager, Lancaster, Texas


Crucial Conversations to Challenge the Status Quo

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David Ellis, county manager, Wake County, North Carolina


Against Racial Injustice and Declaration that Black Lives Matter Rochelle Small-Toney, city manager, Rocky Mount, North Carolina


Conflicting Loyalties: Black City Managers During a Time of George Floyd Kenneth Williams, city manager, Buda, Texas


National Forum for Black Public Administrators: Partnering to Take Action for Positive Change Anthony J. Snipes, ICMA-CM, president, National Forum for Black Public Administrators


Silence is Complicity: Can White America Demonstrate that Black Lives Matter? Ron Carlee, D.P.A., assistant professor, Old Dominion University


Case Study: City of Sanford, Florida — 2012 Shooting of Trayvon Martin Leadership and Professional Local Government Managers: Before, During, and After a Crisis Foreword by Norton N. Bonaparte Jr., ICMA-CM, City Manager, Sanford, Florida


Rethinking Our Role as Servant Leaders

John Shaw, ICMA-CM

Cover photo by Frank Wiese/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP Opposite page: Top photo by NBC / Contributor / NBC Universal via Getty Images Bottom photo by Win McNamee / Staff / Getty Images News via Getty Images

INTRODUCTION 2 A Message from the Executive Director 3 ICMA Executive Board Statement Regarding Systemic Racism


11 NurPhoto / Contributor via Getty Images

22 Social Justice Resources 23 Racial Equity Action Plans: A How-to Manual 24 Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government: A Resource Guide to Put Ideas Into Action

International City/County Management Association


A Message from the Executive Director Marc Ott

Executive Director International City/County Management Association

Over the past nearly three months, ICMA has been working around the clock to keep up with the demand for new resources and tools to help you deal with a crisis that none of us could have predicted. The global pandemic has demanded that local governments work remotely, pause their local economies, and innovate in ways that both protect residents and keep operations running. In the midst of the health disaster, another crisis has struck at the very soul of our communities. There are similarities. It, too, is happening on the global stage. It, too, demands all the creativity, skills, and compassion you have accumulated in your years of experience. But make no mistake, this is different. The demand for systemic change erupting in our communities—starting here in the United States, but felt in every corner of the world—requires much more of us. The racial injustices and oppression of Black Americans and other people of color have driven our residents of all races and backgrounds into our streets to demand real change. Beyond skill and intellect, this requires heart. It requires that you bring real courage to your community. This is the kind of courage I talked to you about the first time I took the stage at the ICMA Annual Conference. It’s the courage to step into the leadership void. Instead of holding back we must have the

Lean on each other and learn from each other.

courage to step forward, take our bureaucratic structures down to the studs and rebuild them through the lens of racial and social equity. We may find that the traditional tools in our toolbox are inadequate to meet the challenges we face. I encourage you to lean on each other and learn from each other. And ICMA will be with you every step of the way. This special supplement of PM magazine, “Moments of Change: Leading with Courage and Commitment for Racial and Social Justice,” is an example of that. When we reached out to contributors on the eve of the protests that have rocked the world, our members and partners stood up offering to help. This is the first step in a process to build capacity for our members and others on the frontlines of local government. We will arm you with new knowledge resources, training, and consulting to help you drive the changes we must make to ensure equitable governance. I am looking forward to taking this journey with you. Now that we have started, we must never stop.



ICMA Executive Board Statement Regarding Systemic Racism We, like many in our communities, share in the heartbreak and anger over the murder of George Floyd, the spate of racist events and excessive force against protesters across the country, and the systemic racism that continues to exist in the United States. The murder of George Floyd has put the issue of systemic racism front and center on the world stage. The weight of these recent tragedies falls especially heavy on us because we are in positions of leadership in cities, counties, and towns throughout the world. The local government management profession and ICMA were founded on a Code of Ethics and a Declaration of Ideals which demand that we serve the best interests of all, achieve equity and social justice, and act with integrity so that we may earn the trust of all those we serve. Addressing systemic racism is our ethical obligation. As leaders, we must work to achieve fundamental change to break the system of inequality and oppression that has tarnished nations for generations and now, more than ever, in America by our history of racism. This inequality has been brought into sharp relief by the disproportionate economic losses and deaths of African Americans and people of color in the pandemic and horrifyingly so in the unjust murders of Black men and women. We must stand in solidarity with the Black community, with those who protest in peace, and with those taking a stand for change. We must see racism as a public health crisis and a stain upon our humanity. “The fierce urgency of now,� as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, is long overdue. We are the ones who can forge real change in our own communities. As our cities, towns, and counties rebuild from the pandemic, we can create a new foundation that replaces white supremacy and racism with an aggressive respect for human rights. Systemic racism is far reaching in society and goes beyond policing. We are committed to be the agents of change within our organizations to lead to a new future. As part of that change, we recognize the immediate concern is policing. We affirm our commitment to support for the professional officers and staff that serve our communities and will work with them to develop new ways to reflect ideals that value all people. We are the ones who stand in the public square. As leaders in our own communities, it is up to each of us to make our voices heard, but more importantly, to listen, to learn, and to use our voices to amplify the voices of others. Doing this successfully means that we will need to embrace new ideas, methods, and skills, and above all, courage to step into roles that we may have been uncomfortable with in the past. As leaders and managers, we must recommit to the highest ideals of just and effective local government and commit to take these initial action steps. Click here. Great social changes often come from turmoil and we as local government leaders can lead that transformation. We can create the kinds of communities we envision, where everyone can flourish. And we begin now by acknowledging Black lives matter.


Fostering Economic Inclusion, Social Equity, and Justice for People of Color—

ADVICE FOR City Managers VALERIE LEMMIE The Cincinnati Story

Between 1995 and 2001, 15 African American males under the age of 40 were killed by police or died while in police custody. Over this sixyear period, there were numerous allegations of excessive force and racial profiling by police. Two officers were tried on manslaughter charges, and federal and civil lawsuits were filed against the Cincinnati Police Department and City of Cincinnati. In the aftermath of the death of Timothy Thomas, 19, who was shot and killed by police on April 7, 2001, the city erupted in civil unrest, resulting in sporadic incidents of violence and confrontations with police. At the time, it was the largest urban disturbance since the 1993 riots in Los Angeles. A subsequent boycott was called by African American community leaders and many nationally known performing artists and conferences cancelled planned events. Today, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police—as well as the countless others whose names may be known only to friends and families—has once again focused a laser light on police behavior and systemic racism. Communities

across the globe are standing up in support of an end to racist practices, economic exclusion, and violence against people of color. They are demanding justice and accountability and they want to be part of the solution. What can city managers learn from cities like Cincinnati that experienced civil unrest in 2001 that might inform their actions today, as they respond to the demands from the public for systemic and sustained institutional changes in the use of force by police? How can the past influence the way public resources are prioritized and allocated? What insights can be shared that might be useful as today’s city managers develop strategies to foster economic inclusion, social equity, and justice for people of color? Lessons Learned

Hired as Cincinnati’s city manager in 2002, I was responsible for helping us recover from the civil unrest, and as importantly, ensure the police department, who reported to me, changed from reactive law enforcement



Systemic change requires fortitude, consistency, and determination.

Hundreds of protesters participate in a March for Justice on April 7, 2002, in Cincinnati, Ohio, marking the one-year anniversary of the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas.

Mike Simons / Stringer / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Demonstrators hold up their hands and signs during a Mass Action for Black Liberation protest and march from Washington Park to City Hall, May 30, 2020, in Cincinnati.

based upon punishment to proactive problem-solving in collaboration with local residents to create safe communities.

Know when you need help and bring in the best expertise you can find.

Mayor Luken immediately brought in community leaders, the Department of Justice, and the courts to help. Most importantly, he led the formation of Cincinnati CAN, an NGO dedicated to addressing the underlying causes of the civil unrest: employment, educational achievement, affordable housing, healthcare, and the treatment of African Americans by the police and the justice system. While outside expertise is critical, so is help from those who live and work in the community. Through

Cincinnati CAN, a series of task forces and committees were created that involved hundreds of residents in the naming of problems and the work to be done to build a better, stronger, and more just city. Hundreds of individuals and organizations also undertook projects on their own and were encouraged to align their work with the larger community-wide initiatives.

Do not allow other organizations, even those with the best of intentions, to be the gatekeeper between city hall and the community. To address the

Mike Simons / Stringer / Getty Images News via Getty Images

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disconnect between citizens and public institutions, public officials must build a trusting relationship with the public—this is not something you can leave to others. The foundation for change begins with trust.


Protester Kubaka Oba participating in the March for Justice, April 7, 2002, in Cincinnati.

Include in the work to be done those who are advocates for change. They

can be crucial partners when navigating the rough waters of

institutional change. Likewise, keep city employees and their legal representatives, unions, in the loop. Unions know more about how the work of

an organization is done and are key to garnering support for change. In our case, we had court-appointed lawyers in the room as we developed institutional reforms in police practices, policies, and procedures. Sometimes they served as peacekeepers.

Respond immediately to demands from the public for information. Most often

the demands were about the Cincinnati Police Department or the status of the various agreements. Over the course of my tenure there were other police shootings of young African American males. We immediately went into the community to share what happened, what we knew, and what was being done. The mayor, city council members, the police chief, and I stood together and made it very clear police officers would be held accountable for their actions and that the reforms instituted would be followed. We gave regular updates on the status of investigations and our progress in making the systemic and institutional changes agreed to in both the memorandum of agreement and collaborative agreement. It is even better to update the community before they ask. Having a single point of official contact is important, usually the mayor, and ensuring all elected officials have information before it is released to the public are critical. Have a clear and consistent message and hold all in the chain of command responsible for what they say and the consequences of their actions. Everyone, not

just the police must be held accountable if the order of

things is to change. It is easy to give information based upon who is in the audience (e.g., to side with the police on an issue when talking to them, or to side with activist when talking with them). Systemic change requires fortitude, consistency, and determination. It is not a popularity contest. As city manager you must make hard choices and tough decisions. You cannot pander to interest groups to get along—going along is usually the root of the problem. Maintain open and constant communications with opinion leaders, stakeholders, and the general public. In many

instances, police actions may be the trigger for unrest, but there are often underlying causes. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the riots neither initiated the racial tension nor the police reforms, but accelerated both. It helps if relationships with these individuals, organizations, and businesses already exist, but if they do not, create them. Communityconvened meetings were often contentious, but I reminded myself that in many instances the problems have been boiling for generations. The anger and frustration are the result of people being previously dismissed, if they were heard at all. The mayor and I were followed by an entourage of protestors carrying signs that read, “No Justice, No Peace,” and chants demanding economic inclusion followed us wherever we went. Institutionalizing equity, justice, and inclusion cannot be achieved by city hall alone or in isolation.

The entire community must take part. City staff must

Community-convened meetings were often contentious, but I reminded myself that in many instances, the problems have been boiling for generations. The anger and frustration are the result of people being previously dismissed, if they were heard at all.

learn how to align their professional routines (the work they do every day) with the way citizens in communities work to create a culture of democratic practices where everyday people and city workers coproduce public goods—the changes people want to see in their community. Community residents must play a direct role—from problem identification, issue framing, deliberating the pros and cons of what should be done, and doing the work required with other citizens and public officials. Elinor Ostrom defined this work of the coproduction of public work and David Mathews refers to it as complementary production. Democratic society requires citizens working with public officials to redress wicked community problems. Everyone must bring his or her expertise, experience, and commitment to serving the community’s interests. Issue forums are often a good way to engage with the public in meaningful ways, and for them to learn how to work together to reach public judgment on what needs to be done. Recognize the warning signs. Conduct a candid

community assessment of the problem behind the problem—what is really at issue and who is most affected. In retrospect, it’s clear Cincinnati was on a collision course between police and the African American community. While the Thomas shooting was the trigger, underlying causes— economic inclusion, social equity, and justice for people of color—were important issues that needed attention. There is no single solution or quick fix. People

must understand the issues and the interrelationships among choices, costs, and benefits. They must reach public judgement on what they are collectively willing to do to ensure the prosperity of their community. As a professional city manager, you must take a public stand against racism, violence, and injustice. Sometimes, when people know where you stand and what you stand for, they stand with you.

VALERIE LEMMIE is director of exploratory research, The Kettering Foundation, and former city manager, Cincinnati, Ohio.





Insights to Understand, Analyze, and Improve



never met George Floyd. I don’t know much about him or the events of May 25. In fact, I haven’t even watched the video. Not because I don’t care, but because I feel like I’ve seen it before. Not because it doesn’t matter, but because it’s so relatable. Mr. Floyd was a 46-yearold Black man who was more than 6 feet tall and whose autopsy listed him as 223 pounds. I too am a 46-year-old Black man who stands more than 6 feet tall and weighs close to 223 pounds. I literally don’t know a single person who looks like me who hasn’t experienced the ugly side of policing. But it’s an important distinction that while every Black person has been negatively

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Protest signs affixed to the security fence around Lafayette Square at the White House.

impacted by bad policing, not every police officer has engaged in or condoned bad policing. That’s the difference between the institution of policing and individual officers. Marilyn Frye’s analogy illustrates a fictional birdcage used as a punitive device designed to restrict a bird’s movement. That’s its purpose and it carries out this oppressive mandate unforgivingly. The cage, though, is made of individual bars. Each individual bar has a different mandate—to hold onto the next bar or to provide a climbing platform for the bird. The individual bar helps the bird by protecting it from cats and supporting its toys, cognitively disconnected from the nefarious intentions of the cage. The individual bar may not concur with the cage’s mission, but it’s the collective efforts of those individual bars that carry out the mission of the entire cage. Good individual officers are like those bars, often well-intentioned and dutifully helping people, while also being associated with something out of their control. One could argue the cage is the institution of policing, but it’s also plausible that, since racism is larger than policing, the cage represents something larger. While my personal background “fits the description,” my professional background is very different. I’m a credentialed manager and Cal-ICMA board member with a law enforcement background that includes front line, oversight, and regulatory roles. This means that the policing of Black America rests at the confluence of my personal and professional life. That’s a heavy weight to bear. A few years ago, after recognizing the value of my perspective, I conducted my own research on this topic as part of my doctoral dissertation. Even though it didn’t leave me with the quick global solution I hoped, it provided the framework in which I now analyze the issue. It also verified that the history is too impactful to ignore. Many people are reluctant to consider the historical context because they weren’t the ones personally responsible for what happened generations ago. I call this the “It wasn’t me” defense. From an individual perspective, it’s absolutely true. Law enforcement officers aren’t wrong for wanting to be judged on their own actions instead of the actions of some other person, in some other place, at some other time, just because of the color of their uniform. After

all, that’s the same thing Blacks have been seeking for years—not to be stereotyped or targeted based on the color of their skin. The difference with cops is that they have a dual role. In addition to their individual capacity, they are a symbol representing the institution of policing—a practice steeped in traditions of both pride and problems that had nothing to do with the individual officer. That means today’s officers get to take responsibility for all the good things that other police have done— all the people who have been helped, crimes that have been solved, and lives that have been saved. It also means taking credit for the embarrassing origins, actions, and injustices credited to policing—and that’s a long list. That history fuels the frustration. The rate of abusive policing has not increased. Even a cursory review of complaints clearly demonstrates that it’s not a new phenomenon. The heightened awareness is owed to the prevalence of cameras to capture, and social media to distribute, the evidence. If you’re wondering what would have happened if there were no video in the Floyd case, just ask anyone who’s been abused. For them, the video is vindication for when they told their own story and no one believed them. “Oh, come on, they wouldn’t do that!” It’s part of the reason that Black people are less likely to trust police and more likely to believe stories of brutality than people whose personal experiences don’t align with injustice. It always looks easy from the outside looking in, but there’s no substitute for walking a mile in someone’s shoes. Reading a book or subscribing to a predominantly Black entertainment channel is not a substitute and can’t tell you what it’s like to be Black. Alternatively, being arrested or watching cop shows on tv can’t qualify you to understand what it means to be a cop. Each group’s perspective is genuinely understood by members of each group, but few outsiders truly understand what the groups go through. That’s precisely why their perspectives are so important and should be represented by those people themselves. It means policies intended to improve the lives of Black people should include input from actual Black people. The same is true of policing.


Police accountability boards that prescriptively prohibit participation by police are excluding a critical viewpoint that can’t be reproduced by other people. In order to make progress we must first define what success actually looks like. That definition varies based on our own interests and experiences, but it’s more complicated than that. While people on the front lines of the conflict have a vested interest, those not directly affected are apathetic. Progress is difficult to define or achieve when the majority of people are disinterested in the outcome. Awakening a critical mass of people and getting them off the sidelines is a function of capturing their hearts and minds to make them aware of and interested in the benefits of progress. However controversial, releases and protests are designed to do just that. Protests

The concept of protesting is intentionally disruptive and goes outside the boundaries of traditionally accepted expression, but that’s the point. People who have deep-seated beliefs will risk it all to defend them whether or not everyone agrees. People who are on the opposite side of those beliefs and people who are otherwise not engaged tend to be bothered by those protests. But for those seeking to engage the unengaged people, this tactic is effective. Popularity in the moment isn’t necessary if the cause is later proved to be just. Modern protests are judged against the standard set by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but the comparison omits the 1966 Gallop poll showing that two-thirds of America had an unfavorable opinion of King. Sadly, he had to die to become popular and gain support. As the saying goes, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. We must expand the toolbox of stakeholders in order to get the best results. Passionate protests and reactive

legislation shouldn’t be the only tools at our disposal. When people feel voiceless or unheard, they reject diplomacy. Sometimes it’s not about what people say, but why they say it. Sometimes it’s less about how they express it and why they are expressing it. For some, this is an unacceptable excuse for recent racial protests. Was it equally unacceptable, though, when it applied to armed White protestors at the Michigan statehouse? Their deep-seated belief was to oppose the state’s COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. Should the rules be different for the two groups? Should the ability to protest be conditioned on value judgments from public servants? Protests are rarely the starting point for expression. Rather, they tend to occur when more traditional methods have been exhausted. It’s like two people starting with a conversation. If one person doesn’t feel heard they may raise their voice and eventually shout in an attempt to be heard. Behavioral science explains that desperation and fear cause people to react irrationally so cranking up the stress won’t produce rational behavior. Within Reach

Progress is within reach. We tend to focus on our differences, but we actually agree on so much. Most officers will concede the problems associated with the institution of policing. The disagreement is more prevalent on the conduct of individual officers. Even with that, though, it’s not as if cops have argued that no officer has been wrong or that Blacks accuse every individual officer of being awful—that rage is directed at officers in their capacity as the face of the institution of policing. The disagreement is in

the number of bad actors, not the existence of them. It’s about quality, not quantity. We get hung up on assigning labels like “isolated incident,” “systemic problem,” and “99 percent of them…”. If it were about ratios, we would focus on leading causes of death and some controversial results of that for each side. Instead, it’s a qualitative problem. Even if there were only one abusive authority figure in America, it would be one too many. Rather than fighting over the prevalence, we should acknowledge that the mere existence of racism is wrong and must be addressed. A Path Forward

Challenges in the policing of Black America began a long time ago. It means those waiting on a solution are tired of waiting, but it also means that a solution may not be instant. Even if the results can’t be immediate, the action spurring those results can be. We can take decisive action today to make improvements. Specifically, we can: 1. Prepare to be humbled. Take an honest look at the actions of yourself, your community, and your organization. Acknowledge your own limitations and don’t pretend to fully understand the needs and perspective of a group if you’re not a member. Your own viewpoint has limitations. Not every incident is on your radar and not every incident on your radar is legitimate. 2. Get people off the sidelines in support of what’s right—win hearts and minds to solicit the support of the disinterested and disengaged. Then seek to include them rather than alienate them. This includes good officers who possess the insights and technical expertise to evaluate tactics. As the saying goes, “Nobody hates a bad cop like a good cop.”


3. Recognize that voiceless people will find a way to be heard. Acknowledge that rational behavior diminishes in the presence of fear, anxiety, and frustration. Focus less on what they say and more on why they say it. Hear the source of frustration without getting defensive or passing value judgments. 4. Take a stand against those who choose to abuse their authority rather than lumping all officers together and allowing bad behavior to hide behind good behavior, Reject the convenience of trying to fix this problem from a safe distance by using the broad brush strokes that tend to under punish bad behavior and over punish good behavior. Get your hands dirty and collect firsthand data to take aggressive action against individuals with bad behavior. 5. Don’t rely solely on legislative remedies and don’t target technical issues without consulting technical experts. Treating symptoms won’t cure the disease. Punish the bad behavior of individuals and transform the institution—not the other way around. Shortterm political pain may be the path to long-term progress. These are difficult conversations and even more difficult policy challenges, but just because some of it may be new to you doesn’t mean it’s actually new. Borrow from the expertise and experiences of people in your community who have relevant insights. I’m happy to help any way I can.

DR. KURT WILSON, ICMA-CM, former city manager of Stockton, California, is a local government advocate, educator, and consultant. (



An epidemic is when a

disease spreads over a wide area and many are ill at the same time. A pandemic affects an even wider geographical area and a significant portion of the population. Over the last six months we have been dealing with the novel coronavirus, better known as COVID-19. For well over three centuries, Black Americans have been dealing with an epidemic that has now become a pandemic. As plans were being implemented by many states to incrementally reopen the business, retail, and restaurant industries, a century’s old epidemic resurfaced. The harsh reality is that people of color have endured centuries of physical, fiscal, and social injustices that are now being more openly exposed. Smartphone and camera technology, coupled with social media platforms, has made it more complicated to ignore. The horrific images of George Floyd with the side of his face pinned to the filthy Minneapolis street, uttering the words “I can’t breathe,” before crying “Momma,” should make any human feel bothered, hurt, angry, and sad. The undeniable truth is that visual image of his tragic death, along with that of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others who have died as a result of racial and social injustices are not a new or uncommon phenomenon for Native Americans, Black Americans, Hispanics, or people of color in general. “We shall overcome” was the battle cry of generations past; “I can’t breathe” is the outcry for change that we are hearing in our communities by countless people of all generations, cultures, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation. As local government professionals, we operate by a Code of Ethics and principles that were established to ensure that we implement policies and procedures that are equitable for all, regardless of political affiliation, gender, socioeconomic status, or race. John C. Maxwell said, “Leadership is

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seeing the possibilities in a situation while others are seeing the limitations.” Our profession has embodied this message since its inception. While business and industry focus on the bottom line, we are exploring how to ensure that essential services are fulfilled to create a safe, healthy, and resilient community for all residents. To accomplish the goal of a safe, healthy, resilient, and sustainable community, we must be willing to be a light in a dim or dark room. We must be willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations and stand for what is morally and ethically right. Colin Kaepernick said, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” During this time, it is important to be a conduit of love, peace, conversation, calm, and change. Arnold Bennett said, “Any change, even change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.” Be uncomfortable and let’s be the change.

“Any change, even change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.”

OPAL MAULDINJONES, ICMA-CM, is city manager of Lancaster, Texas.


Crucial Conversations to Challenge the Status Quo The Wake County community is struggling

DAVID ELLIS is county manager, Wake County, North Carolina.

to make sense of the world we are living in today. Three months ago, COVID-19 was something that Italy, Spain, and other countries were struggling with, the local economy was stronger than ever, and racial unrest was something that our children learned about in their history classes. The reality is that we were comfortable and didn’t want to look below the surface. We know now that COVID-19 was in many of our communities in the later part of 2019, that many families were a paycheck away from standing in line for food or being evicted from their homes, and that the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ring hollow and are an unfulfilled promise for many. We as public administrators have an opportunity in front of us. We have an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past; to create communities where race, socioeconomic status, or a zip code doesn’t determine your future. In order to do this type of work, I believe we all with have to get comfortable


with being uncomfortable. We will need to continue to strengthen relationships with traditional civil rights organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League, but relationships will have to be developed with newer organizations, like Black Lives Matters and others. We, along with our law enforcement officials, will need to have crucial conversations in our communities and organizations about race, equity, equality, and privilege. Those words are going to become as common as operating budget, personnel count, and revenue shortages—and we will need to be engaged and lead many of those conversations. Those conversations, while a start, will not be enough. People expect and will hold us accountable for change. All of us will need to come forward with open minds and thick skin, as our beliefs and values may be challenged. You see, folks, there is no playbook, no graduate class, or online webinar that is going to tell us what we need to do. I believe we will need to open our hearts and minds and be willing to challenge the status quo and do what is right to fulfill the dream of Dr. King and others.

Against Racial Injustice and Declaration that Black Lives Matter As city manager of Rocky Mount,

ROCHELLE SMALL-TONEY, ICMA-CM, City Manager, Rocky Mount, North Carolina

North Carolina—which, according to the 2010 census, has a racial makeup of 61.3% African American—I am personally saddened by the death of Mr. George Perry Floyd Jr. and the manner in which his life came to an end. Our city’s mission is to advance community well-being, safety, and quality of life by delivering excellent public services to all citizens. And I can only imagine the heartache his family and community must be feeling. I encourage everyone to take heed to a quote by Maya Angelou, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.” I am proud of the way the city elected officials, staff, and community have dealt with the aftermath. On May 30, 2020, the Rocky Mount Black Action Committee hosted a peaceful demonstration


demanding an end to the murder of black people and to encourage and support black economics. Hundreds of people attended, and their voices were heard. And on June 8, 2020, the Rocky Mount City Council approved the removal of a Confederate statue that has stood in the city for more than a century. Further, the council adopted a resolution, “Against Racial Injustice and Declaration that Black Lives Matter.” I view this as the beginning and not the end. We have much more that needs to be done. Our police department is on the front lines and is committed to serving all citizens through the principles of integrity, fairness, professionalism, and respect that they deserve. The police chief is evaluating existing policies and procedures, will be hosting community meetings, and will course correct if necessary. The department remains committed to ensuring that law and order remains in our city and every citizen is safe and treated with the dignity and respect.


Conflicting Loyalties: Black City Managers During a Time of George Floyd


City managers, no matter what race, are bound by the ICMA Code of Ethics or their state association’s ethical code.

any city in the country during this time of Black Lives Matter and civil unrest is a challenge that is causing stressful days and sleepless nights. However difficult the challenge of managing the issue, it is even more complicated if you are a Black city manager or public administrator. Any actions taken will be analyzed by all the community to see if your decisions are favoring law enforcement or disenfranchised people of color in the country. As city manager, any action that puts the members of the city police department and city residents in harm’s way is of deep concern. This has never been more evident than in the irresponsible actions of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and other Minneapolis officers. They have harmed the reputation of all law enforcement officers, putting other officers, along with the entire country, in danger with inconsiderate, selfish, and reckless behavior. The senseless and insensitive killing of George Floyd has indeed been one of the more blatant criminal acts ever committed by one who is charged with protecting the life and safety of the populaces of our nation. Mr. Floyd did nothing to deserve a death sentence and should have gotten due process in his interaction with the law. Unfortunately, such occurrences have become all too common in the lives of Black Americans during their interactions with law enforcement. Such tragic events have served to erase the level of trust between the two groups that desperately needs healing if our country is to reach its full potential. In expression of displeasure for unlawful and unequal actions by law officers, many citizens of the United States have enacted their constitutional right to peacefully protest or engage in civil disobedience. However, like there are bad cops, there are chameleons disguised as protesters who have taken advantage of the situation to partake in the criminal activity of looting and larceny. This criminal

commotion is wrong and shall not be tolerated and shall indeed be enforced by law. There are many sides of these issues for a city manager to consider without seeming biased. However, there is a simple guideline. City managers, no matter what race, are bound by the ICMA Code of Ethics or their state association’s ethical code. Part of that standard says to treat all people equally with

Spencer Platt / Staff / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Being city manager of

the quality of inclusivity as to strengthen public trust. City managers are one of a small group of people who can have a direct impact on both groups. Police chiefs manage departments and typically answer to city managers. Let us do our job as managers and demand accountability from ourselves and those we manage while assuring them of our support when their job is done properly. Likewise, our residents should know we can be relied upon to “do the right thing.” We can do better. We must do better if Black Americans are to enjoy their unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which allows the relationship with law enforcement to heal.

KENNETH WILLIAMS is city manager of Buda, Texas.



National Forum for Black Public Administrators: Partnering to Take Action for Positive Change


Our nation is again faced with incidents that

ANTHONY J. SNIPES, ICMACM, is president of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

are testing our humanity and resolve. Over the past few months, we have witnessed several senseless killings of African Americans that were captured on video, including Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, Breonna Taylor on March 13, and George Floyd on May 25. These tragedies have electrified the nation, but are also affecting our civil servants and public administrators. The National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) is the nation’s premier membership organization of African American public administrators. Over the past few weeks, I have spoken with many of our members and partners who have expressed the same frustration, sorrow, and anger currently being shown in protests, marches, and at kitchen table discussions around the nation. These members include a number of public safety personnel, who have described sometimes having to wear “two hats” being both Black and a public servant. As a leadership organization, we want fair and equal treatment for our members and also to ensure that they are able to operate in a healthy and safe work environment. Dr. King once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” NFBPA, our members, and other public administrators now have the opportunity and the responsibility to take action. This can be accomplished through working with our partner organizations and using our role in the public policy sphere to enact long-lasting policy changes. NFBPA holds that these changes do not mean defunding the police, but rather ensuring that an equal, if not greater, portion of public funding goes to supporting social services, public and mental services, homeless services, job training programs, and other entities that can improve the lives of our community members while decreasing the likelihood of violent confrontations. Recently, NFBPA has begun discussions with numerous organizations representing public administrators in order to determine ways in which we can form a collective response. These tremendous


partners include ICMA, the National League of Cities, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, the Local Government Hispanic Network, and many more. We look forward to joint sessions and community town halls that will give our members the support and resources they need to balance public leadership with the imperative to guarantee the health and safety of all citizens. To this effect, NFBPA is working with our 35+ chapters to hold listening sessions on race and discuss opportunities for increased implicit bias training. We are also developing a white paper that will focus on how our municipalities can process in a fair, just, and equitable manner. Much of this focus will be on a Review of the Twenty-First Century Police report, including both its accomplishments and shortcomings. Furthermore, we wish to ensure that the voices and ideas of our young professionals, or “emerging leaders,” are included as part of the conversation. With over 2,500 members, NFBPA has established a national reputation for designing and implementing quality initiatives of unparalleled success. Our members are leaders and managers of public programs and agencies in more than 350 jurisdictions nationwide, including in some of our largest cities. However, these are issues that affect all public administrators and city managers. Only by working together with our partner organizations can we take concrete and effective action on policy. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. As we move forward, we as public administrators must utilize our roles in developing policies to support fair, equitable, and just changes. Our voices do matter!

Silence is Complicity: Can White America Demonstrate that Black Lives Matter?

America finds itself in turmoil because we have failed to address racism and the inequities that it perpetuates.

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of people find their dreams deferred, and will those dreams dry up, like Langston Hughes’s raisin in the sun, or will they explode? Large-scale urban unrest has not occurred in the United States since the 1960s— especially 1967, when there were eight major incidents of urban violence and damage. Could such an explosion of urban unrest occur today?

The level of protest and violence gripping urban America as the summer of 2020 begins is the most extensive unrest since the urban uprising in the 1960s. The protests are inspired by the callous treatment of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer while other officers watched with nonchalance and a bystander pled for the officers to stop. Mr. Floyd’s murder was painfully captured by video, making it impossible to deny what happened. Every police officer, police chief, city manager, and elected official needs to watch the entire video1 and ask the question, “Could it happen in my community?” In most cases, the answer is yes. This leads us to two questions addressed herein: Why do we find ourselves in this situation in 2020? And can America demonstrate that black lives matter?

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Seven years later, we know the answer. Combining economic and health inequity with police inequity gets us to the present situation. In 2015, Sarah Hazel and I examined race and police violence:

How Did We Get Here?

America finds itself in turmoil because we have failed to address racism and the inequities that it perpetuates: economic disparities, health disparities, and police violence. Economic inequities combined with health inequities put African Americans and other people of color at disproportional risk for COVID-19.2 The preexisting inequities have been documented by the National Academies of Science,3 and

the CDC has documented the devastating consequences of the virus.4 Now as the economy resumes, we may see spikes of additional illness and death among people of color. In 2013, I outlined the economic inequities and the threat that they posed to social order:


Will the have-nots become increasingly frustrated in ways that will spill out into social disruption? Will growing numbers

The public has become suspicious of police, police have become suspicious of the citizens they are there to protect, and both police and people have become suspicious and disenchanted with senior local government leaders, who too often are ill-prepared to deal with the conflict.… There is a compelling need for local government professionals to address these issues before another crisis occurs, to have a frank discussion about race and the country’s history of predominantly white government leaders and white police departments, and about the extent of marginalizing African American and other minority communities. Cities that avoid the hard discussions do so at their own risk.

The crisis has arrived, and the risk revealed. Many cities have worked on police reform since 2015. The White House convened a diverse task force that produced a report on twentyfirst century policing.5 The foundational principle was “building trust and nurturing legitimacy on both sides of the police/citizen divide.” Many cities have used the report as a blueprint, deploying body cams, teaching de-escalation techniques, and engaging in community relations events. Nonetheless, police violence continues to occur without accountability or justice. In addition to George Floyd, there is also the recent case of Breonna Taylor, who was gunned down in her Louisville home by police executing a no-knock drug warrant on the wrong house. And, the list goes on and on. Can America Demonstrate that Black Lives Matter?

History does not offer much hope, but it does offer a pathway. It would be dishonest to suggest that there have been no racial improvements over our history. As horrific as today’s violence against African Americans is, it cannot compare to the violence that occurred during the Jim Crow era or during slavery. That racial violence still occurs at all is unfathomable. History teaches us that two conditions are necessary for change. People must stand up for their rights and people in power must respond. Justice Must Be Demanded.

People who are oppressed must demand justice. Without Frederick Douglass, Sojourner

Truth, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, and others, slavery would have lasted much longer. Without the initiatives of the NAACP and the incredible bravery of African American families6 and the court cases they brought in the 1940s and 1950s, Jim Crow would have had a much longer life. Without the marches in Birmingham and Selma, where people put their lives on the line, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act would have never passed in the 1960s. People with Power Must Be Allies.

King, if enough people unite, change is possible. A wide range of elected and appointed officials are speaking up, along with business leaders. Other promising signs include police chiefs8 joining their mayors in denouncing police violence and police officers showing solidarity with protestors, taking a knee9 in respect or marching with protestors. Marchers have been racially diverse, including young white people who have had more exposure to diversity than earlier generations. Local Reform is Possible.

White people in power must be willing to stand as allies and use their power to enact the reforms sought. The Radical Republicans in Congress along with President Abraham Lincoln were able to end slavery. The white members of the Supreme Court had to defy precedent and overturn Plessy with a proper reading of the Fourteenth Amendment in Brown. President Lyndon B. Johnson, a white southerner, was the champion of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. The relationship between President Johnson with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. enabled groundbreaking legislation that otherwise may have never been adopted.7 President Johnson lost the presidency. Dr. King lost his life. While we lack the overwhelmingly powerful voice of a President Lincoln or Dr.

It is not likely in the polarized national political environment that national reform will occur. States and cities, however, can reform their own police departments. We forget that local police were responsible for enforcing slavery, enforcing Jim Crow, and implementing mass incarceration. It is a long journey to reform an entrenched culture. Reform begins with an articulated commitment to change, combined with more oversight, transparency, the ability of police chiefs to remove officers for misconduct, and a willingness for local prosecutors to hold officers accountable for criminal acts. Reform requires police officers and police unions to have the courage to break the code of silence and intervene when misdeeds occur. The video of George

Visit for additional resources for local government leaders as they address the current crisis of public trust, civil unrest, and social justice.

Floyd illustrates how compelling this last point is. Had the three other officers on the scene said, “Stop,” Mr. Floyd would be alive today. Police officers and police unions must decide if they will drive institutional racism from their departments and become symbols of institutional justice. Silence is Complicity.

Among Dr. King’s many compelling words are these, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” This is not a time for white people to be silent. Silence is complicity. We must all stand with the family of Mr. Floyd and so many others and, unlike the officers on the street that fateful day in Minneapolis, say, “Stop.” ENDNOTES AND RESOURCES 3 books/NBK425848/pdf/Bookshelf_ NBK425848.pdf 4 5 taskforce_finalreport.pdf 6 story.php?storyId=14178871 7 https://prologue.blogs.archives. gov/2018/02/28/lbj-and-mlk/ 8 9 1 2

RON CARLEE, D.P.A., is an assistant professor at Old Dominion University. He previously served as city manager of Charlotte, North Carolina; chief operating officer at ICMA; and county manager of Arlington, Virginia. He began his career as an assistant to the mayor in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.


Case Study:

City of Sanford, Florida — 2012 Shooting of Trayvon Martin Leadership and Professional Local Government Managers: Before, During and After a Crisis



By Norton N. Bonaparte Jr., ICMA-CM, City Manager, Sanford, Florida

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The death of George Floyd has again resurfaced racial tensions in America. Sanford, like other communities has had a number of demonstrations, all of which have been peaceful. Our mayor, police chief, and I have participated in a march and our elected officials and members of our police department have attended various programs. People are hurting and this is a time for us to listen and let it be known that we care and will be working to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman over two years before Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. Unlike most of the recent high-profile shootings, this one was not a police officerinvolved shooting. However, the incident became all about the police, not because of what they did, but because of what they did not do: immediately arrest and hold the shooter, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was part of a neighborhood watch group for his gated residential complex, the Retreat at Twin Lakes. City Manager Norton Bonaparte noted that in previous communities where he has lived, gated communities were places of affluence. In Sanford, however, he said that “they are more modest; they are simply communities with a gate.” On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was visiting the Retreat at Twin Lakes, on a trip with his father to see his father’s girlfriend who lived there. Martin went to the 7-Eleven and bought Skittles and AriZona Iced Tea. As Martin returned to the townhouse in the complex, Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious person and followed Martin despite being told not to by the 911 operator. Zimmerman claimed that the unarmed

Martin threatened him, and, in self-defense, Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. There were no witnesses or definitive video. Sanford Police arrested Zimmerman, questioned him, but lacking evidence to disprove his self-defense claim, let him return home while the investigation continued. In April 2012, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. He was acquitted in July 2013. City Manager Bonaparte was informed of the shooting when it occurred and trusted the police to conduct the investigation. Intense media inquiries started about two weeks later and quickly gained international prominence: “another young black man shot by a white person, and police do nothing.” As a result of the media attention, four major protest events occurred in Sanford: • Rev. Al Sharpton led a march of 30,000 people. • An NAACP rally had several thousand people. • 3,000 people came to a City Commission meeting, which normally attracts 20 to 30 people. • College students, who called themselves Dream Defenders, walked from Daytona Beach to Sanford and staged a sit-in in front of the Sanford police station.

There were no major incidents at any of these events. Bonaparte attributes the lack of violence or property damage to the city’s adopting a philosophy of welcoming people to the community, listening to their concerns, accommodating their needs, and facilitating their First Amendment rights. The following are examples: • For the Rev. Sharpton’s march, normal protocol would have required about a sixty-day process for an event of this size. The permit was approved in days, facilitated by the city. Bonaparte activated the emergency operations center to monitor events, attended the rally, and walked around and talked with people participating in the event. • When the city learned that the Martin family was bringing 3,000 people to the commission meeting, the city moved the meeting from its normal facility, which seats 125, to its largest venue at the civic center, which seats 600. For those who would be left outside, the city rented a giant screen so people could see and hear the meeting and provided portable toilets and water. Arrangements cost an unbudgeted $35,000, which Bonaparte explains this way: “It wasn’t a cost; it was an investment in our community’s security.” • When students staged the sit-in at the police station, it was clear that they wanted to be arrested, a narrative that Bonaparte thought would be disastrous: Sanford police arrest peaceful black students but won’t arrest the killer of Trayvon Martin. Bonaparte moved civilian police staff to city hall and

let the community know that if they had business to do with the police, staff would be available in city hall. He then engaged the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service to assist in negotiating a peaceful resolution of the sit-in—a service Bonaparte strongly recommends to other managers. To address the larger issues, Bonaparte convened a blueribbon committee, which made recommendations for improving police relations in June 2013. A two-year progress report is available on the Sanford website. Over the course of the event, the City Commission took a noconfidence vote on the police chief, who Bonaparte later dismissed. Although the police were seen as the underlying focal point of the presenting issue, distrust of the city ran deep and was multifaceted. Thus, the response to the bigger picture required engagement of all city departments. Today, Bonaparte says that progress has been made. “You will see in the city’s parks people of various races and backgrounds together; people get along.” There is redevelopment in distressed areas showing tangible results to the community. At the same time, Bonaparte expresses awareness that “unresolved issues remain, and we continue the work between the AfricanAmerican community and Sanford Police Department; we continue the work to earn the community’s trust.” Excerpted from “Leadership and Professional Local Government Managers: Before, During, and After a Crisis,” Ron Carlee, D.P.A., published by ICMA, April 2019.



Rethinking Our Role as Servant Leaders


In just a couple of months, it will be six years since

Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer, forcing important conversations on racism, policing, and our judicial system. Long overdue discussions were finally taking place on what African Americans experience in their communities. Many of us who are culturally ignorant had little excuse after the summer of 2014 not to view this experience through just about every medium at our reach. Countless initiatives began far and wide in local governments

throughout the U.S. to attempt to address the frightening realities that define a critical part of life in the African American community. So why, nearly six years later, are we looking not only at some of the same concerns and calls for help, but an even more widespread expression of unrest? As the former city manager of Ferguson, who served that community for eight years, including at the time of the shooting and subsequent social unrest, I cannot begin to explain the feelings running through me over these last few, utterly tragic,


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A protest march led by Michael Brown Sr. to mark the oneyear anniversary of the killing of son Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson.

We must begin with introspection, and honestly look within ourselves and our communities.

weeks. However, to focus on just one area of my profound sadness and frustration, I feel we must all now recognize that not only can Ferguson happen in any community, it is happening in all of our communities. And instead of heaping the responsibility for reversing the failings of our institutions for African Americans onto our police departments, we as managers need to recognize that it is in fact our responsibility, and that working with our elected officials to implement any needed changes must be our top priority. Ferguson will forever be a defining characteristic of who I am, because I simply cannot let go of what happened. This is because I know our organizations can be better. Lives need not be lost, nor communities destroyed, in order to get there. Although I am not currently serving in a local government role, I continue to devote time to discussing my experiences with other managers around the country, attempting to develop solutions to how we can make our communities better and safer for everyone. Although one thing I continue to find surprising is how many professionals still feel that what happened in Ferguson would not happen in their communities, for whatever the reason. If you have heard me present at any number of association conferences, you have heard me describe Ferguson prior to August 2014. If you looked at Ferguson on paper prior to that time, and read about the various initiatives we had in play, you can see why many didn’t think Ferguson would happen in Ferguson. It was not an overtly divided community, controlled by nefarious people and staffed by racist police officers, but quite the contrary. Ferguson is a city full of good people, who honestly thought we were heading in the right direction in a number of ways. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the events of that summer and the following fall and winter, that it became clear we in fact were wrong in a number of ways. I was wrong in a number of ways. When it comes to law enforcement, we implement and engage in various activities to better “connect” the people with the police. We have school resource officers in the schools; we organize programs like “coffee with a cop” or barbecues in the park with pickup basketball games. Sometimes we even have robust community policing initiatives to allow our officers to get to know the residents more personally. But why do we feel that is enough, and why are we putting so much of the

responsibility on one classification of employee? If our problems are systemic, and come from deep within our systems, the responsibility should lie with the city manager to identify and personally take action. As a city manager, you have a lot on your plate already, and in a time of crisis, it can be near unimaginable. We are responsible for our residents, our city councils, our employees, as well as our families (who lest we forget experience the crisis first-hand along with us). So, let’s start to incorporate a conscious effort to address this crisis, well before we are presented with a tragedy in our towns. We must begin with introspection, and honestly look within ourselves and our communities. Take ownership of the reality we discover. Get out of our comfort zone and engage your residents. Commit to understanding different races and cultures by building it into your life. Develop a true support network with community leaders by literally attempting to live side-by-side and understand their experience. Then engage them, along with your police, your councils, and your staff in reviewing your ordinances and policies to recommend changes. Work internally with your councils and department heads on what you have been collectively missing and give your staff the resources and support they need to do their jobs in a way that’s better for them and everyone else. And make sure to communicate this to residents who may still not understand what this crisis is all about. When city managers first step into their position, there is a list of priorities handed to them by their city councils. These include very real needs such as economic development, addressing old facilities and failing infrastructure, and righting budgets in dire need of realignment. I would argue that while you must certainly continue to work on those issues, there is nothing more important right now than focusing on how your organization can better serve those who are suffering due to our existing systems. Take the necessary steps forward to restore trust and hope so that your community can come together in times of tragedy and crisis. At this moment, we should rethink our role as “servant leaders” and reimagine a new path forward for us to JOHN SHAW, truly live up to that title. ICMA-CM


Tasos Katopodis / Stringer / Getty Images News via Getty Images

ICMA Resources on Social Justice These ICMA resources may be helpful to local government leaders as they address the current crisis of public trust, civil unrest, and social justice. Click on these items to be taken to their resource page. Visit for additional resources. ARTICLES

• Building Resilient Communities During Disruptive Change Part 1: Crisis Communications Part 2: Public Safety Part 3: Community Engagement and Building Public Trust • The Model Police Officer: Recruitment, Training, and Community Engagement • How to Find the Right Interim Police Chief, Especially in a Crisis • Black Lives Matter: Racial Disparity and a Review of Police-Community Relations LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES ON SOCIAL JUSTICE

• Promoting Trust in a Divisive World • Recognize and Eliminate Bias • Encouraging Inclusive Communities VIDEO

• Tools for Trust: From the Lens of a Social Crisis (2019 ICMA Annual Conference) 22 | PUBLIC MANAGEMENT | JUNE 2020 SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT

“Black Lives Matter” was painted on 16th Street near the White House on June 5, 2020, in Washington, DC. Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed that section of 16th Street “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”


Racial Equity Action Plans: A How-to Manual


A Racial Equity Action Plan can put a theory of change into action to achieve a collective vision of racial equity.

While local governments may consider themselves

fair and just, people of color fare worse than their white counterparts in every area: housing, employment, education, justice, and health. Current day disparities are just as bad and sometimes worse than they were before the Civil Rights era. Since then, most governments have not made significant changes in outcomes for employees or residents of color, even with years of effort. Because local governments have a unique responsibility to all residents, these racial inequities can and must be addressed. The public sector must be for the public good; current racial inequities are destructive. We must go beyond individual, intentional discrimination or acts of bigotry, and examine the systems in which we all live. We must investigate—honestly—how our longstanding systems, policies, and practices, unintentionally or not, have created and continue to maintain racial inequity, and we must change them. A Racial Equity Action Plan can put a theory of change into action to achieve a collective vision of racial equity. Plans can drive institutional and structural change. However, the goal we seek is not a plan. The goal is institutional and structural change, which requires resources to implement: time, money, skills, and effort. It requires local governments’ will and expertise to change our policies, the way we do business, our habits, and cultures. Our theory of change requires normalizing conversations about race, making sure we have a shared understanding of commonly held definitions of implicit bias and institutional and structural racism. Normalizing and prioritizing our efforts creates greater urgency and allows change to take place more expeditiously. We must also operationalize racial equity, integrating racial equity into our routine decision-making processes, often through the use of a Racial Equity Tool and development and implementation of measurable actions. Operationalizing a vision for racial equity means implementation of new tools for decision-making, measurement, and accountability. We also organize, both inside our institutions and in partnership with others, to effect change together. Organizing involves building staff and organizational capacity through training for new skills and competencies while also building internal infrastructure to advance racial equity. The “Racial Equity Action Plan: A How-To Manual” PDF provides guidance for local governments to develop their own Racial Equity Action Plans after a period of research and information gathering. This manual also provides guidance and

tools to conduct this research. GARE created a Racial Equity Action Plan template after a national scan of promising practices from cities and counties that have developed plans for racial equity and the structures that supported successful planning processes. We are also appreciative of the Results Based Accountability framework as a disciplined way of thinking and taking action that communities and government can use to achieve meaningful improvements, eliminate racial inequities and lift up outcomes for all. A Racial Equity Plan is both a process and a product. A successful process will build staff capacity which can be valuable during implementation. A process can also serve to familiarize more staff with the jurisdiction’s racial equity vision and its theory of change.

Download the PDF of the “Racial Equity Action Plan: A How-To Manual” at THE GOVERNMENT ALLIANCE ON RACE AND EQUITY (GARE) is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Learn more at



Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government:

A Resource Guide to Put Ideas Into Action


A resource that will hopefully be informative, but more importantly, one that we hope will assist government leaders in operationalizing racial equity. Across the country, more and more cities and

counties are making commitments to achieve racial equity. The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunity for all. When government focuses on the power and influence of their own institution and works in partnership with others, significant leverage and expansion opportunities emerge, setting the stage for the achievement of racial equity in our communities. Over the past decade, a growing field of practice has emerged. This toolkit is based on the lessons learned from practitioners, as well as academic experts and national technical assistance providers. You may be participating in a structured workshop and using it as a part of the workshop; or you may be using it as a reference. It is a resource that will hopefully be informative, but more importantly, one that we hope will assist government leaders in operationalizing racial equity. We know that is important for us to work together. If your jurisdiction has already initiated work to achieve racial equity, join the cohort of jurisdictions at the forefront. Sharing best practices, peer-to-peer learning, and academic resources helps to strengthen work across jurisdictions. If your jurisdiction is just getting started, consider joining one of the new cohorts GARE is launching, focusing on jurisdictions at that initial stage. The cohort will be supported with a body of practice including racial equity training curricula, infrastructure models, tools, and sample policies. If your jurisdiction needs assistance with racial equity training, racial equity tools, model policies, communications coaching or assistance with particular topic areas, such as criminal justice, jobs, housing, development, health or education, please contact GARE. If you are in a region where there are opportunities to build cross-jurisdictional partnerships with other institutions and communities, GARE can help build regional infrastructure for racial equity. Together, we can make a difference.


Download the PDF of “Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government: A Resource Guide to Put Ideas Into Action� at THE GOVERNMENT ALLIANCE ON RACE AND EQUITY (GARE) is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Learn more at

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